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Our family just got back from a day of hiking the trails at Hanging Rock State Park. I truly believe that the area we live in is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have so many opportunities to enjoy nature, from canoeing and fishing on the New River, to biking on the New River Trail, to hiking through many of the numerous state parks and national forests in the surrounding area. We are truly blessed to see such beauty on a regular basis.
On our recent hiking trip, we were able to able to hike to the top of Hanging Rock. The hike to the top is a little over a mile, but it is listed as a moderate hike and can be steep in places. It was challenging, but not too hard for our kids. After getting back to the real world, I decided to share a few lessons from the hike.
1) Enjoy the Journey
I'm a fast hiker. I don't like to stop and I especially don't like going slow. It's always a challenge to see how fast I can reach the destination. While hiking, my wife and kids are constantly reminding me to slow down. My kids don't mind letting me know that my legs are longer and that I need to stop and enjoy the scenery. They remind me to enjoy the journey. I hate to admit it, but my family is right. There is joy in the journey.
For me, hiking is a metaphor for my life as well. I'm constantly going somewhere and it seems like I stay way too busy. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to get to where we are going, that we miss God given opportunities along the way. Our society has conditioned us to constantly stay busy. Our families operate like a taxi service transporting the kids to all their activities and our churches aren't much slower. Almost every night of the week there are practices, meetings, and studies. In Scripture, we see that Jesus withdrew from the crowds and spent time alone. Jesus also saw opportunities that the disciples missed. As they traveled from town to town, we see Jesus talking, sharing, healing, and loving the people he met. We need to do the same.
But there is another important lesson that I needed to be reminded of.
2) We Can't Stay on the Mountaintop
After resting and soaking in the views from the top of the mountain for a while, I reluctantly decided that I had to get back to the real world and hike back down. I was reminded of the story of Jesus and Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration. All three of the synoptic gospels share this story about a mountaintop experience (you can read it in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9) After they had an incredible experience in which they saw Jesus literally transformed and glorified on the mountaintop, they didn't want to leave. In fact they wanted to build an alter so they wouldn't forget what happened. But Jesus didn't let them stay on the mountaintop. While we are refreshed and encouraged while we are on top of the world, we have to re-enter the real world. There is work to be done, and it's our job to do it.
Sometimes our life seems like a mountaintop. The view is incredible and everything seems to be going our way. However, as most of you have experienced, there are points in our life when we are far from the mountaintop, when life is not what we expected. It's in those times we are in the valley that we must look up to God and rely on Him. Billy Graham once said that it's while we are on the mountaintops that we need to be praying the most, because we can be sure that a valley is coming.
Let me just challenge you in your thinking. Our joy and contentment is not based on whether we are on a mountaintop or in a valley. We need to remember that there is joy in the journey.